* Rosbank CEO suspected of receiving six-figure sum-interior
* Suspected of soliciting far larger bribe
* TV footage shows wads of cash on Golubkov's desk
* Russia is SocGen's priority foreign market
(Adds Rosbank statement, identifies second suspect)
By Katya Golubkova and Douglas Busvine
MOSCOW, May 15 The chief executive of Societe
Generale's Russian unit was detained on Wednesday on
suspicion of taking bribes, dealing a blow to one of the few
foreign banks that has dared to challenge Russia's dominant
The investigation into Rosbank Chief Executive Vladimir
Golubkov in Moscow follows promises by President Vladimir Putin
to crack down on corruption in business and public life as well
as to defend national economic interests.
It could also alarm international companies in Russia that
are wary of the weak rule of law and the state's ability to step
in against businesses or individuals that fall out of favour.
Despite announcing cost cuts when it published results last
week, the French bank reaffirmed its commitment to Russia, a
market it entered at high cost in the past decade that has been
abandoned by some Western banks.
Those growth plans could now be at risk after Golubkov's
detention on suspicion of illegally accepting a six-figure
dollar sum in cash and soliciting a bribe 10 times larger.
The Rosbank CEO was held "on suspicion of receiving illegal
monetary compensation" totalling 5 million roubles ($160,000),
the Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Golubkov was also suspected of demanding a bribe of $1.5
million from a businessman to grant a loan, the statement said.
A senior Rosbank manager, Tamara Polyanitsyna, was held on
suspicion of being an intermediary meant to receive the cash.
Television footage released by the ministry showed uniformed
offers elbowing their way into Rosbank's headquarters, then cut
to a scene of Golubkov standing in his office with several wads
of 5,000 rouble ($150) notes piled on the desk in front of him.
Golubkov, wearing a light grey suit, looked into the camera
but did not speak.
Rosbank said it was cooperating with authorities in the
investigation into Golubkov and said first deputy CEO Igor
Antonov was taking charge of operations, which were unaffected
by the developments. SocGen had no further comment.
Such payments are not unusual in the Russian banking system
and usually go undetected. Cases that come to light have been
known to result from stings instigated by business rivals with
connections in law enforcement.
"It doesn't look pretty," said one Russian banking analyst
who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But everyone knows this is
something that is specific to Russia, that it happens - just not
at this level."
Another senior Russian banker, who neither knows Golubkov
personally nor was aware of the details of the case, said:
"Somebody could have set up the guy."
Western bankers say it is sometimes difficult to prevent
their staff from accepting loan 'facilitation' payments seen as
vital for cementing relationships in a country where the courts
offer limited recourse for resolving disputes.
Russia has suffered tens of billions of dollars in capital
flight and its economy has been weighed down by weak investment
as large foreign players, such as British oil major BP,
have liquidated investments after coming under pressure from
officials, competitors or local partners.
SocGen has paid an estimated 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion)
to build up an estimated 82 percent stake in Rosbank, but
despite creating Russia's ninth-largest commercial bank the
franchise has failed to turn consistent profits.
In an interview with Reuters published on May 7, Golubkov
said Rosbank had growth potential: "Russia is Societe Generale's
second most important market and a priority development target."
Golubkov has been CEO at Rosbank since 2008. The lender was
previously the bank of Russian metals billionaire Vladimir
Potanin, now the CEO of Arctic miner Norilsk Nickel,
and tycoon-turned-politician Mikhail Prokhorov.
SocGen has struggled to impose effective control over
Rosbank and integrate its other Russian operations, with a high
cost base and below-par loans growth last year driving the bank
to a small loss.
Hopes had been high that an overhauled management team, with
Golubkov backed up by deputy CEOs Francois Bloch and Ilya
Polyakov, would be able to turn the page.
That outcome has eluded other Western banks including
Barclays and HSBC, which have pulled out of
Russia after struggling to compete with Sberbank and
VTB, whose state backing guarantees cheaper funding.
"SocGen's investment in Rosbank has been problematic since
the beginning, in terms of price paid, profitability and
governance concerns ... These new political or regulatory issues
are not going to help," said Yannick Naud, portfolio manager at
Glendevon King Asset Management.
($1 = 31.3252 Russian roubles)
($1 = 0.7705 euros)
(Additional reporting by Lionel Laurent; Writing by Douglas
Busvine, Editing by Timothy Heritage and David Cowell)